At 28, I have successfully started and transitioned out of a company I founded and into a dual degree MBA/MPP program at MIT and Harvard. The IDEX Fellowship was the catalyst I needed to gain the skills, knowledge, and experience to make me successful. When I reflect on the last five years and my professional career, I have had many opportunities but none as incredible and life changing as IDEX. This fellowship allowed me to challenge myself as a leader and team member as well as acquire a deep understanding of the ground realities facing communities in emerging markets. Through this fellowship, I founded a company, made incredible friends, and developed as a professional in the social enterprise field.
I graduated from college in 2010 to a slowly recovering economy. I knew that I wanted to go into international development and work specifically with women in marginalized communities. During my grueling job search, I came across IDEX and was lucky to be accepted to the pilot cohort of the program. Over the next few months, I was given more responsibility than any of my friends who were stuck in entry-level jobs filing, faxing, and getting coffee.
IDEX placed me in a low-cost private school in Hyderabad, Telangana. At the school, I was allowed to source my own projects and ended up starting a co-ed cricket league and teacher training program. My individual work at the school helped develop project management and negotiation skills (very few schools wanted girls to play cricket!). But, I learned a lot from my peers. Everyone came from different backgrounds, and we formed a tight support network.
Halfway through the fellowship, the Nike Foundation approached IDEX and Gray Matters Capital to start a program for adolescent girls in India. Because IDEX had connections to Nike, two colleagues and I were asked to submit a proposal. We ended up receiving a grant to pilot a life skills and spoken English summer camp in the summer of 2011. As a Women’s and Gender Studies major, this was my dream job, and I spent the next few months creating this program. After that first hot, sweaty summer, we discovered that the pilot was successful, impacting 435 girls in 10 schools across Hyderabad, and Nike decided to fund us for two more years. In 2012, we incorporated VOICE 4 Girls and built a hybrid non-profit/social enterprise. Three years later when I left the organization for graduate school, VOICE was in three states across India reaching over 3,000 girls per year and recouping half of our operating costs from partners through licensing fees.
My success as a social entrepreneur and the impact that I have been able to make in the lives of girls has largely been due to the opportunities and guidance provided by IDEX. This fellowship is an incredible platform that brings together people, skills, and knowledge to provide members with a truly life-changing experience. Because of IDEX, I have been able to run my own organization built from my passion. IDEX was an amazing start to my journey into social enterprise.